Phoenix neighborhood ‘fed up’ with noise from police helicopters taking shortcuts over their homes
When neighbors began complaining, police officers started showing up at their door. Was this an intimidation attempt?
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - It was the end of January when the Phoenix Police officers showed up at Kyle Ondrejko’s front door. Ondrejko’s security video shows them looking around the front of the home and knocking on the door. They left without leaving a note but returned one more time. It was the latest chapter in a contentious relationship that Ondrejko insists is the result of police flying over his neighborhood and his home, at low altitudes, all hours of the day and night. “It sounds like you’re watching a war movie, actually,” said Ondrejko.
The neighborhood at issue is located directly south of the Deer Valley Airport, which is considered the busiest general aviation airport in the world. Flights schools, private planes, air ambulances, and helicopters fly in and out of Deer Valley. In addition, the Phoenix Police Department, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office all fly helicopters out of the airport, taking off and landing multiple times per day.
WATCH: Arizona’s Family Investigates team discusses the police helicopter noise near Deer Valley.
The Federal Aviation Administration sent the approved flight path for law enforcement to Arizona’s Family Investigates. According to the diagram, those choppers are required to follow Seventh Avenue south from the airport to the Loop 101 freeway, then head east, west, or south from there to the final destination. But according to flight tracker websites we visited over the past two months, law enforcement helicopters often fly between Seventh Avenue and Central Avenue, cutting across Kyle Ondrejko’s neighborhood. “Instead of going straight for another two blocks, they just come, and they bank over the house, which is the loudest noise that they make,” said Ondrejko.
“It interrupts sleep patterns. It interrupts daily work-life patterns,” said Scott Fischler, who lived in the same neighborhood last year. Fischler says he purchased a decibel meter and measured the helicopter noise at up to 80 decibels. That’s equivalent to a blender or garbage disposal. “So I was working on my classwork from home. And sure enough, here comes a helicopter blasting overhead at 75 or 80 decibels at three, four in the morning. Right over our rooftops,” said Fischler. He believes the noise is amplified because the choppers fly at a relatively low altitude near the airport.
Phoenix Police sent a statement to Arizona’s Family Investigates stating that its pilots follow “strict FAA rules when flying in and out of the airport.” A sergeant from MCSO sent a statement that reads, “There is no one FAA flight path for helicopters in the Deer Valley Airspace. Any and all helicopters can come and go, in any direction, or altitude, as long as the tower grants your request, or assigns you that route and altitude. The tower’s decisions change too, depending on the wind, weather, and aircraft volume.” The MCSO statement goes on to say, “There are not any noise abatement procedures, for helicopters, at this airport.”
A spokesperson for DPS did not issue a statement but spoke to a reporter on the phone to gather information about the noise complaints. One helicopter pilot who spoke to Arizona’s Family Investigates echoed the MCSO statement that there is no “one” specific way to fly in and out of the airport, although that contradicts the flight path map issued by the FAA.
Ondrejko has complained to several law enforcement agencies, including Phoenix Police. He says the noise problem would get better for a time, then get worse again. By the end of last year, he says he had enough and sent what he admits was an angry email to police. Shortly afterward, police showed up at his home. He believes they were there to intimidate him. Ondrejko has not been cited, arrested, or charged with any crime, and insists he did not threaten anyone. “No, sir. I can honestly say not a chance of that,” said Ondrejko.
Phoenix police stated the officers were there to “provide him understanding on how the FAA creates and establishes the flight paths after he sent an email outlining his concerns.” The police agency recommended we submit a records request for a copy of Ondrejko’s email. That request is pending with the police.
In the meantime, online flight trackers appear to show law enforcement helicopters flying more closely along Seventh Avenue after Arizona’s Family began inquiring about the flight path and noise complaints.
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